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The Roadrunner Sentinel at Las Cruces, New Mexico: First Impressions

Updated on April 10, 2011

The Road to Las Cruces

The Road to the Roadrunner and Las Cruces
The Road to the Roadrunner and Las Cruces | Source

Bowlin's Old West Trading Post

Bowlin's Old West Trading Post west of Las Cruces
Bowlin's Old West Trading Post west of Las Cruces | Source

Scenic view of Las Cruces

Scenic view of Las Cruces from rest area.  Organ mountains are in the background.
Scenic view of Las Cruces from rest area. Organ mountains are in the background. | Source

Picture of Roadrunner with people

The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces with people to compare size.
The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces with people to compare size. | Source

Closer shot of Roadrunner

Full shot of roadrunner statue.
Full shot of roadrunner statue. | Source

Close up of Las Cruces Roadrunner

Closeup of roadrunner sentinel
Closeup of roadrunner sentinel | Source

I had made business trips in the Las Cruces, New Mexico area many years ago and never got the chance to explore the city. The actual place of business was in a remote area in desert like settings and after a hard day’s work, I would just eat and sleep for the night and go back to work the next day. My thoughts were just getting back to the East Coast as soon as the project was done. There was another reason for not checking out the great outdoors of New Mexico. My visits have been in the summer and it can get darn hot there. The heat I experience was definitely dry. At times, it seems that I could not breathe.

Another chance visit to Las Cruces was in the works recently and this time I wanted to at least take some scenic photos of the landscape. I googled Las Cruces tourism sites and looked for areas of interest. The San Albino Church is the oldest Catholic Church in the Las Cruces area. I made a mental note to see it. Some of the websites did not have enough pictures of other places of interest. I checked out the images pertaining to Las Cruces in google and an image of a giant bird appeared. There were some blurbs that it was a statue of a roadrunner made of trash and I had a difficult time finding the exact location of this structure.

Once personal website had general information on where the giant roadrunner was located. It was basically in a rest area just west of Las Cruces. Sounds like easy directions, so I thought.

The easiest way to get to Las Cruces if traveling by air is to fly into El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces is about an hour drive from the El Paso International Airport. The drive to Las Cruces from El Paso reminds you of old western deserts with brush and yucca plants. From El Paso you can see mountains close by in the southwest and far away north. The ones near El Paso look like a big brown mound. The ones in the north look more scenic.

My trip from the East Coast was an early one. I got up at 4 AM to get ready and drive to the airport and make my way west. There was one connecting flight on the way to El Paso. It was almost 1 PM local by the time I got my bags and rental car.

The rental car was a story in itself. I was only allowed a subcompact rental car. This is not a good idea in the West. Mountains and subcompact cars do not mix. There are two big reasons for this. Subcompacts can go fast enough. There are many long stretches of highway where the speed limits are at least 65 miles per hour. There are also one lane highways. You will be passed by many big pickup trucks with way more power.

The second reason not to have a subcompact rental car in the West is that it can’t climb mountains. There are highways that go through mountains West and Northwest of Texas. If you manage to stress the engine or transmission you could break down. In the big states of the West there can be lots of miles between towns with automobile service. You could be far from your rental car company if you are in remote places in the desert or highway. The result is that you may be waiting for a very long time to get help if your car breaks down.

After visiting the work site, I ventured to check into my Las Cruces hotel. Route 70 goes East to West through Las Cruces. It’s been a long day so I decided to make my quest for the Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces. After discovering the existence of the Roadrunner statue I tried to look for information about it’s official name, who made it, and other specs like height. I could not. The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces is something I made up and I hope the city of Las Cruces use this term one day for an official name. I think this name will make the statue more interesting. We’ll see.

I traveled past the city limits of Las Cruces and kept going. The location of The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces is at a rest area west of the city on route 70. I was going west and did not see a rest area left or right of the highway. Route 70 turned into I-10 and I was at least 20 miles away. I decided to find a place to turn around. There was an exit for food and gas. There was a big store called Bowlin’s Old West Trading Post several hundred yards from the exit. It was a gift shop, convenience store and alcohol store. But it also sold fireworks and gasoline.

As I got into the store, the size and the number of items inside awed me. I was hesitant to ask for the location of The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces. It felt so silly to ask. I was tired and determined not to waste time anymore. The young store clerk was very friendly and helpful. He told me to turn around to Las Cruces going east and see a rest area past exit 135. I asked if the big bird could be seen from the highway but he said only the head could be seen.

After receiving the easy directions, I thought about continuing my quest immediately. I decided that it would be nice to patronize the store. I bought a few items and took a picture of the store before I went on.

A few minutes had gone by and I found the rest area. I was not able to see The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces until I was several hundred yards from the highway. The rest area had a bathroom and several sheltered areas to have a picnic. The buildings there had a feel of being built in the 1800’s Old West.

The rest area was on a high elevation looking over the city of Las Cruces. Just beyond the city are the Organ Mountains. It was just a very picturesque scene and I took pictures with my iPhone. I ventured towards The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces about 50 yards away. Since I did not have a zoom function on the iPhone camera (it’s an old 3G) I took pictures along the way.

The closer I got to The Roadrunner Sentinel of Las Cruces the awful it looked. The statue was really made out of trash. There were no placards or any other information in the area. It was just the bird and I. Unfortunately, there was no one else around and I could not get a picture of my and the roadrunner.

My mission was complete. During the next few days in Las Cruces I did not conducted any more excursions after work. The Old Mesilla area and San Albino Church would have been my next stops. I was simply homesick and missed my family.  Organ Mountains and White Sands National Monument are just a couple of many examples of the places to see in the Las Cruces area.

The trip was short but nice. It was not great traveling alone. Trips to the west are best with at least a buddy or spouse. If you’ve never been to or around Las Cruces, you now have an idea of what places of interests are in the area.


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